The Lord can heal, but do we believe He can protect?

PREFACE: This is one of a series of posts that I will be publishing over the next few weeks that offer my own perspective about issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. My purpose in these posts is to suggest ways that Christians can think about this pandemic which glorify God and draw attention to our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. rmb

I cannot imagine a professing Christian not praying for the Lord to heal a loved one who has contracted COVID-19. Surely in any fellowship of any local church, when one of the members of the church has fallen ill with COVID, the other members of the body respond by offering up prayers for healing. We know that, during His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus healed many people of their illnesses. We know that the LORD “heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3). For those who have walked with the Lord for a long time, we have seen the Lord heal us and heal those we love in answer to prayers. A Christian can rightly declare the Lord’s sovereign power over all disease and can know that, if the Lord is willing, He will certainly heal (Matthew 8:2-3). Our God is Jehovah Rapha, the LORD your healer (Exodus 15:26). Based on the prayers offered for healing, most Christians believe the Lord can heal.

But while there are frequent prayers and prayer requests for the Lord to heal when loved ones become ill with this disease, it seems to me that there are far fewer prayers for the Lord to protect us from COVID in the first place. If my impression is reality; that is, if there are, in fact, few prayers for protection, I would ask why that was so. It could be that we have more uncertainty about the Lord’s ability to protect than to heal. But why would we believe that the Lord can heal us from a disease, but would not believe He can protect us from that same disease? Can the Lord who heals not also protect? Is protecting me from catching COVID-19 and keeping me safe from all COVID’s variants too difficult for the living God (Jer. 32:17, 27)?

In the Scriptures, God’s people often call out to Him for protection. There are many prayers in the Psalms that cry out to the LORD for His protection against enemies and adversaries, and in each of these, the psalmist expects the LORD to answer his prayer. The psalmist expects that, since the LORD is infinitely able and since He loves His people, He will answer their cry for protection. In no sense is this “testing the LORD.” Rather, this is inspired Scripture and is therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The prayers in the Psalms are models for God’s people for all time. In fact, it could be argued that to not cry out to the LORD for protection according to the prayers of the Psalms is a faithless act. Based on the prayers for protection in the Scripture, then, we, too, should pray for protection and trust that the Lord will answer.

Some have suggested to me that perhaps the Lord would allow me to catch the COVID disease to teach me some important life lesson. Is that possible? Of course, that is possible. But this would be very confusing to me in these circumstances. If I openly declare to the watching world that I am trusting the living God to keep me safe from any form of COVID, and I am doing this to glorify the Lord for His ability to keep His child well, and I remind people that I have not had any trace of COVID since the disease began in March of 2020 and that God has kept me perfectly safe so far, why would the Lord allow me to catch the disease now? What lesson would He be teaching me, to not trust Him so much? How would the Lord be glorified in those circumstances?

In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus commends prayer for His followers, saying that as a human father will not give a stone to a son who asks for a loaf of bread, nor will he give a snake to his child who asks for a fish, so “your Father who is in heaven will give what is good to those who ask Him” (7:11). It would seem to me that allowing someone who is trusting Him for protection from COVID to contract COVID, would be like giving a snake to a son who asks for a fish. Instead, those who trust the Lord completely for their protection will not be disappointed (Romans 10:11).

My conclusion, then, is to suggest that those Christians who have not already gotten the COVID vaccine would wholly trust the Lord to protect them from COVID-19 and would declare to those in your circle of influence that the Lord is your protector, and He will keep you safe from COVID. The Lord is our shield and defender, and trusting Him brings Him glory.

SDG rmb 10/1/2021 #437

Once to die and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

PREFACE: Another of a series of posts offering my own perspective on the issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. NOTE: I have edited the post from yesterday, “Some trust in chariots (Psalm 20:6-9)” because some of the wording needed to be changed. rmb

An interesting phenomenon has occurred in the last year and a half. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the threat of sudden, random death onto the screens of people all over the globe. When it first appeared in March of last year, the reports were that COVID only affected the aged and the infirm, but as the pandemic has raged and morphed, the threat of getting a severe case has gradually trickled down the age ranges until now everyone of any age is a potential victim. And death may result, whether you are nineteen or ninety. COVID is no respecter of age. Nor does COVID seem to discriminate on the basis of physical health. There is growing evidence that physical fitness poses no barrier to COVID. And death may result, whether you are a physical specimen or a couch potato.

A few days ago, it was announced that the COVID pandemic is now officially the deadliest pandemic in US history, surpassing the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. To date 676,000 Americans have entered eternity as a result of COVID-19. Yes, there is no question about it: death may result from COVID.

So, how should we, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, respond to these realities? I suggest that we address these realities with the truths of the gospel.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DEATH

COVID has brought to many people an awareness of death, and an awareness of their own possible death, which has previously been absent. Of course, death is not new. Ever since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, death has been a reality on this planet. Every person who has ever been born either has already experienced death or will experience death. Death hangs over the head of every person living, and death may come at any moment. There is no negotiation. There is never a redo. There is no reversal. Death comes with stunning finality, and we humans are helpless before it. And death is a universal problem.

Human beings are unique among all the animals on earth in two ways related to death: First, humans are the only animals who know they are going to die; and second, humans are the only animals who will be judged by God because of their sin. Hebrews 9:27 puts it well:

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment

It is appointed for men to die. God told Adam, “The day you eat of it (forbidden fruit) you shall surely die.” Thus, death entered the world (Romans 5:12), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). So, it is appointed by God for men to die. There is a day appointed for me and for you when we will die.

But the most terrifying thing about death is not the experience of death itself, but the truth that after death comes judgment. All of us must stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10). All unbelievers will stand before the blazing holiness of God Almighty and will be condemned for their sins (Revelation 20:15). This is why the unbeliever, whether they admit it or not, is frightened of death. They are frightened because, in their soul, they know that God’s judgment awaits.

AWARENESS OF DEATH

I mentioned before that COVID has brought many people to an awareness of the possibility of their own death. So, it is not death itself that is new, but it is the awareness of their own death that is new. Through the COVID pandemic, millions have seen men and women just like them dying of COVID and death has become part of everyday conversation. My awareness of my own possible death from COVID goes way up when I see a friend or a church member or a relative dying of the disease. What does the gospel have to say to those who are afraid of death and afraid of the coming judgment?

JESUS CHRIST HAS CONQUERED DEATH

So COVID threatens us with physical death, but the truth of the gospel declares that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Jesus has conquered death by His glorious resurrection, and now the follower of Jesus has no need to fear death. Since Jesus Christ has risen from dead, all those who are in Christ will also rise from the dead in the final Resurrection. The Bible declares this over and over again:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Jesus promises resurrection and eternal life to all who believe in Him. COVID cannot threaten me because Jesus has given me His promises.

53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

All believers must put on imperishable immortality. The Christian is promised a resurrection, so death has lost its victory and its sting.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

The apostle Paul takes this idea into the most practical of places. Since faith in Jesus Christ has guaranteed a resurrection, the believer can live fully for Christ and then will gain heaven when they die. COVID has nothing to say to a life lived for Christ in that way.

So, the believer in Jesus can respond to the threat of death from COVID by simply declaring, “Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I have no fear of death. My Savior has conquered the grave and risen from the dead, and in the end, I will also be glorified. So, I have no fear of COVID-19.” This, in my opinion, is the faithful response to the threat of this pandemic.

But I think there is still more that we can do with the threat of COVID.

AN OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER THE GOSPEL

As more and more become aware of their mortality and of the proximity of their own death, and as perhaps some we know or encounter even draw near to that awesome moment when life gives way to eternity, I am convinced that believers must warn the perishing of their peril and urge them to come to Christ before it is too late.

Is it possible that the Lord is using the deaths of this pandemic and the increased awareness of our own inevitable death to open a door for those who will tell the lost about the reality of the final Judgment so they will turn to Christ? In Ezekiel 33:1-10 we read the story of the watchman. The LORD tells the prophet that a watchman was appointed to send the alarm if he saw the sword of destruction coming upon the city so the city would be warned and get to safety. Then the LORD says, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand” (Ezekiel 33:6). The LORD is saying that, because the watchman did not warn about the coming sword, he is responsible for the deaths in the city.

How does this apply to the believer during the COVID pandemic? We are the watchmen who have been appointed to warn of the coming Judgment. We are the ones who know that there is a sword coming, ultimately the double-edged sword coming out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus when He returns to judge the earth (Revelation 19:11-16). We have been appointed as the witnesses of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8), and if we do not warn about the coming judgment, the people will still perish in their sins, but we also will have to give an account for why we were silent. The point is that COVID-19 has made people, all people, much more aware about the possibility of death. That is an opportunity for us, for we know Him who has conquered death. We know Him who has removed our fear of death. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). We know that the Judgment will be terrifying, and we know how those who are now under judgment can be set free. Let’s be vocal and bold in proclaiming Jesus to the lost.

Some trust in chariots (Psalm 20:6-9)

PREFACE: Ordinarily I stay away from trendy topics, preferring instead to mine the timeless resources of the Scriptures, but I have decided to throw some of my thoughts and opinions into the vast ocean of the COVID-19 dialog. This is the first of several posts on that subject. NOTE: This is an edited version of a post I made yesterday (9/22/2021).

One of the topics that has been glaringly absent from the endless discussions and diatribes about COVID-19 and its related vaccines is the topic of faith. Even when reading articles and Blog posts from Christian authors, the subject of faith is rarely mentioned and is never central. Now, I would expect unbelievers to run to these vaccines and to loudly tout these “miracles of modern medical science.” I would expect those who do not know the living God to be fearful in the face of this pandemic, since admittedly many people have died from COVID. It is understandable for unbelievers to stampede to the vaccine since they have no shield or refuge or defender or savior other then the two mighty jabs. For an unbeliever to cling to the feeble hope that some man-made means of rescue will keep them safe from the dreaded disease is perfectly reasonable. “A suspect parachute is better than no parachute at all,” or so the saying goes. So, I understand the responses of those who do not know God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What puzzles me, and sometimes alarms me, is the response of those who do claim to trust in the Lord. I would expect that those who know the living God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who thus have all the promises in the Bible credited to their account, would respond to this disease and to the vaccine in a noticeably different way, but almost always I am disappointed. In what they write, in what they say in conversations, and in what they do, the overwhelming majority of professing Christians respond virtually identically as the world responds. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be!

Consider Psalm 20:6-9.

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
Some boast (trust) in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast (trust) in the name of the Lord, our God.
They have bowed down and fallen,
But we have risen and stood upright.
Save, O Lord;
May the King answer us in the day we call.

20:6 – David knows that the Lord is the one who saves. Notice that he does not mention any other possible means of rescue. The psalmist then declares the truth that the Lord will answer His people from heaven. When God’s people cry out to Him, we have the promise that God will answer our cries. And how will the Lord answer our cries? “With the saving strength of His right hand.” Nothing and no one can stay the action of the Lord’s right hand.

20:7 – This promise of the Lord’s faithfulness and strength shown to His people (20:6) evokes trust from David. “Some” boast in chariots and horses. “Some” people have never seen the Lord’s strength and they reject His salvation, so they trust in their worldly weapons. “When I am afraid,” this person says, “I will remember that I have chariots and horses. They are mighty to save. Chariots and horses will keep me safe.” But David, speaking for the Lord’s people, proclaims that “we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Whatever threat may come, we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. He has proven Himself faithful and the saving strength of His right hand will defeat any enemy. All our trust is in the Lord.

20:8 – And what is the result of where a person places their trust? Does it make a difference whom you trust? Yes, it most certainly does. In Psalm 146:3, we read, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no salvation.” If your trust is in the mortal things of this world, you will perish with them. In 20:8 we read, “’They’ have bowed down and fallen.” The “they” in this verse is the same people as the “some” in verse 7. Those who trusted in chariots and horses “have bowed down and fallen.” They trusted in things that could not save and could not protect them from the threats of this world. “But we have risen and stood upright.” There is a huge contrast between those who trust the Lord and those who trust in worldly shields and defenses. “Bowed down and fallen” or “risen and stood upright,” that is the contrast. All the difference is in whom you trust.

[ASIDE: As a further note on 20:8, it is possible that David is here talking about more than a victory in an earthly battle. The phrase “risen and stood upright” could be referring to the Resurrection on the Last Day. On that day, all believers will rise in glorious resurrection and will constitute a great army to join with the Lord Jesus when He comes to destroy and judge the unrighteous. Ezekiel 37:10 declares, “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life (‘risen’) and stood on their feet (‘stood upright’), an exceedingly great army.”]

20:9 – Now David can cry to the Lord with confidence, “Save, O Lord!” The Lord has declared and proven His faithfulness and David has trusted in the Lord, his God, so the result is that the man of God can know for certain that the Lord will be mighty to save him.

For the Christian, the primary issue is trust. Whom do you trust? Not “Whom do you claim to trust?” but, “Whom do you trust?” Do you trust in chariots and horses, or do you trust in the name of the Lord, our God? Trust is the issue.

So, if trust is the primary issue, then how do we apply the teaching of Psalm 20:6-9 to our current pandemic and particularly with regard to its vaccine? To be very direct, I pose this question: “Can the professing Christian listen to Biden and Fauci and Moderna and Pfizer and the CDC and a thousand other voices, and obey them, and then claim to believe Psalm 20:6-9?” I don’t think so, because the issue is trust. Our trust in the Lord must manifest itself in practical ways in our lives. What glory does God receive when, with regard to this very public controversy about COVID, His people have the same conversations and make the same decisions on the same bases as the rest of the world? Would the watching world not conclude that we, too, need a vaccine to protect us from COVID? Would it not be a better demonstration of the power of our God and of our trust in Him to declare that, regarding this disease or any disease or any threat whatsoever, “We will trust in the name of the Lord, our God”?

Remember, “Some boast (trust) in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast (trust) in the name of the Lord, our God.” In whom will you boast?